306 Phoenix House provides welcoming community activities for all.
Shela Tarwater and Celeste McNeal, co-owners of 306 Phoenix House
Once upon a time, the building at 306 W. Phoenix Ave. was called the Peace House, and was run by three women. The Peace House held peace meetings, trainings in nonviolent communication, musical events and vegetarian potlucks.
History repeats itself. For the last year and a half, what is now simply 306 Phoenix House has developed into a community gathering place, again led by three women.
Celeste McNeal, a yoga instructor and childbirth doula, originally met Shela Tarwater in 2009 when she was finishing up her degree at OU-Tulsa. In a near-instant bond, they formed a monthly women’s circle, an empowerment group where women could come together to talk and support one another. What the group lacked in a formal meeting place, it made up for in successful gatherings and energetic friendships.
Tulsans may recognize 306 Phoenix House as the former Blue Jackalope, a small grocery store with a bent for fellowship. Tarwater drove by the grocery one day and saw the building vacant, its future in question. She consulted McNeal about the property with their group in mind.
“It was initially an opportunity to have our classes in one centrally located place,” McNeal says. “We were like, ‘Oh, this is perfect, we can have all of our classes here instead of jumping all over the place.’ We said, ‘We want to put down roots.’”
And with that, they became the new kids on the block.
Thirteen-year-old Haven Theseas lives down the street and welcomes the new community house.
“I remember when Celeste just walked down the road and gathered everybody that was outside, and we just did a little yoga class,” Theseas recalls. “And that was my first yoga class. I think ever since then, my life has been really different. ... It changed my whole way of thinking about things.
“Before I met the Phoenix House people, I sat inside, ate junk food, played video games,” he says, “and now I feel like the most active person I’ve ever been. And I feel like for the first time, I actually want to go out and do something to help other people.”
Rose McCracken entered the picture in late 2012. She has since become one of the more active community members.
“I also came from a more mainstream background and currently serve as the development director for the Tulsa Symphony,” McCracken says. “I knew I had a desire or purpose to make a difference, and I couldn’t define it. ... Coming to the Phoenix House was like coming home for me. It was like I found my family.”
Now, 306 Phoenix House offers much more than just yoga, although classes have expanded to include specialized yoga such as Kundalini (the yoga of awareness), prenatal yoga, children’s yoga, and family yoga. Other ongoing classes include rhythm and drums, breathwork and meditation. They charge on a sliding scale of $5-15 per class.
“We want this to be affordable for people,” Tarwater says. “When you come to a class, you just put however much you can pay that day into the basket. No questions asked.”
The space also hosts special events, including live music, comedy improv troupes, holistic and metaphysical workshops, training for yoga teachers, potlucks, small festivals and street parties. Tulsans can rent the Phoenix House for private events, too, though usage must align with the owners’ mission statement: “Honoring spirit. Connecting people. Nurturing life.”
“It’s all about the spirit that connects us,” McNeal explains. “We are very cognizant of that. When we start thinking about how far we’ve come in this 306 Phoenix House venture, it’s bigger than us. It’s so much bigger than us. It does come down to love.”